Two Alumnae serve as interim coordinators of Hand Art Center

Gisela Alvarez and Abbey Ramsbottom worked together in the Hand Art Center as undergraduate students, and now they are pairing up again this summer to run the art museum while Stetson looks for a new director.

Abbey Ramsbottom ’18, left, and Gisela Alvarez ’16, are serving as co-coordinators of the Hand Art Center this summer until a permanent director is hired.
The painted crosses behind them are part of the “Spirits” exhibit by Deborah Masters. Photos: Ciara Ocasio/Stetson

The two alumnae started as co-coordinators of the Homer and Dolly Hand Art Center on May 22, shortly before its Director Tonya Cribb Curran left to become director of the art museum at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh.

Stetson is conducting a national search and hopes to have the new director “hired by September or earlier,” said Nathan Wolek, Ph.D., outgoing chair of Creative Arts. In the interim, the university looked to its own alumni to help.

Nathan Wolek, Ph.D.

“Both of these young alums have expressed the desire to pursue careers in art history or museums,” Wolek said. “They both proved to be bright and capable as students, so it made sense to use this brief period that we are without a director to provide them with some leadership experience. That way, Gisela, Abbey, and Stetson all benefit from this.”

Combined, Alvarez and Ramsbottom have six years of experience working in the Hand Art Center as undergraduates, and they credit Curran for training student workers so well that they could step into the shared roles. They also are working closely with Wolek and Laura Glander, administrative support staffer in Creative Arts, they added.

“It’s just really great experience,” said Alvarez ’16, Art, who will pursue a master’s degree in art history at the University of Florida this fall. At age 35, Alvarez said she started college later in life, but that has helped her become more focused on her career goals. She plans to get a Ph.D. in art history, and hopes to work for a museum or gallery in New York City or become a college professor.

Abbey Ramsbottom talks with student worker Justin Alexander, a sophomore Studio Art major, about placing identification cards beside the artwork in the current “Spirits” exhibit.

“I’m glad actually that I could get my feet wet in someplace like Stetson that’s like home and that I know,” she said of the Hand Art Center position. “This has definitely helped solidify my decision to pursue a career in art.”

Ramsbottom ’18, Art History and Spanish, said the two already are planning events for the summer, including kids’ art days and a spiritual lecture series in July, timed with the exhibit, “Spirits,” by Deborah Masters.

The art museum will display more than 45 of Masters’ sculptures, cross paintings and drawings during the exhibit from June 3-Aug. 3. An opening-night reception is set for Friday, June 14, 6-8 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public. Visit the website for hours and parking information.

Also this summer, Alvarez and Ramsbottom will oversee the center’s eight student workers and prepare for the juried student art show in the fall.

exterior of Hand Art Center and people strolling by
The Homer and Dolly Hand Art Center is free and open to the public. Visit the center’s website for hours, parking and other information.

“I’m looking at museum studies programs, for a master’s in museum studies for fall 2020,” said Ramsbottom, who also works as a supervisor at a downtown store, Outsiders, and runs a small nonprofit that promote ethics in business and fair treatment for workers.

“I love nonprofits. That’s part of why I was really excited about this job, the museum aspect specifically, where you have these white gallery walls and it’s very calm and serene. It’s just a place for contemplation.”